Can you think of a single professional endeavor that doesn’t require strong communication skills to be successful? I am confident you can’t think of one. Of course we need the ability to effectively convey ideas, manage people and resolve conflict. That’s because we are not islands unto ourselves. Rather, we must connect with other people regularly if we want to prosper.
Communication skills take on heightened importance for leaders. In fact, take a few minutes to think of a person you consider to be an effective leader. I bet communication skills are one of their traits. Such skills are essential to conveying and showcasing leadership ability. It doesn’t necessarily mean the person is overly loquacious. But, it means even their few words are effectively used.
Of course, communication skills have taken on more importance in this extended telework environment. And, your communication skills must adapt and account for these changed circumstances. If not, you might find yourself fading into the background. But, we can do this! By focusing on the primary goals for which we communicate – to inform, influence and motivate the people around us – we can leverage our abilities and the tools that have been provided to us to make the best of it.
So, to more effectively present our knowledge and expertise, let’s consider the following tips and best practices.
- Practice effective listening. Most of us have the ability to hear the sounds around us. But, to listen means we have actively seek to hear and understand something well. And when you listen “effectively,” it means you have focused your attention on the other person so you can understand the message and, at the same time, allow them to feel validated and appreciated. Then when you do respond, you have first been an outstanding audience for them.
- Balance advocacy of your ideas with inquiry into the interests and concerns of others. No one has all of the answers all of the time. And believing that you do will hinder your ability to obtain more information. It will also prevent you from collaborating and negotiating towards even better results.
- Project a positive image. Your image is an important part of your communication. Remember, your camera should be on for virtual meetings. In fact, consider what you might be communicating to others with it off.
- Watch what you convey through body language. We communicate with our eyes, smile, body movements, posture and even our breathing. And these nonverbal cues can intensify or diminish your message, create or negate associations, and command or decrease presence.
- Organize your thoughts for maximum effectiveness. As a result, your key message will be stated clearly and concisely. Don’t let rambling be what your audience remembers.
- Always be audience-focused in your communication. So, be clear on what your audience already knows. Find the sweet spot between giving them too much background, which might bore or insult them, and telling them too little, which might make them miss your point.
- Find value in every communication. Believe you can learn something from everybody. In fact, consider what the responses you receive tell you about the people you were communicating with. And, use that knowledge to consider how to influence them in the future.
In conclusion, success in the workplace, your community and even in your home largely depends on your ability to communicate. If we want to inform, influence and motivate those around us, we must spend time honing these skills.
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Shirley A. Jones, Esq. is a Senior Executive Service (SES) member in the federal government and a certified leadership and diversity and inclusion trainer. Considering herself an employee advocate and a career development trainer, she was recently elected National President of Blacks In Government (BIG). Ms. Jones has had the opportunity to testify before Congress on the lack of diversity in the SES and frequently speaks at events in the Washington, D.C., area. She often addresses a variety of topics related to leadership and empowerment. Ms. Jones has also written Op-Ed pieces for the historic AFRO newspaper, HBCU Connect and other publications.